When choosing timber flooring, most people have a specific colour or pattern in mind. However there are a number of other important aspects to consider such as;
1. Look & Feel
Timber flooring is a wonderful investment to add to your home, its natural beauty can act as the foundation for the look and feel of your interior, while adding character and texture that cannot be achieved with any other floor covering. Timber flooring can suit any style of interior, from rustic to contemporary, eclectic to modern and more, it is all about what look and feel you want to create within your home.
There are four major factors that affect the style of your floor amount of knots/feature, the texture, the colour, and the format (plank width and/or pattern). The amount of knots/feature and texture play a huge part in you floor's style for example, floors with lots of knots, feature and texture lend themselves to a rustic homely feel, while floors with minimal knots, feature and texture can create a modern minimal feel. Colours also play a big part - Lighter coloured floors can bring a sense of calm to your interior, while yellows, browns and caramel tones can inject warmth, greys and beiges are known for their neutrality and dark colours can be used to add sophistication. Plank format can really impact the overall feel of the space; for example, narrow planks can make a room look cluttered and busy, while medium width planks suit most spaces and wide planks can be used to add a feeling grandeur and spaciousness. If you like to make a statement, consider herringbone or chevron patterns as they are a trendy and timeless option that leaves a big impression!
For most people, practicality is of high importance nobody wants to be cleaning their floor all the time because it shows up every bit of dust and dirt! For ultimate practicality we recommend avoiding very light or very dark colours with little colour variation. Try and choose a style that has a variety of colour tones throughout rather than a flat colour. Natural uncoloured Oak is usually a safe option. The more different tones and textures in your flooring, the more it will hide (and vice versa - the more solid a colour you choose, the more it will show.) The more rustic and textured your floor is, the more imperfections it will hide. If it does wear over time, this will only add character. If knots and cracks are filled in a contrasting colour this also helps.
Let's face it timber flooring is a big investment and nobody wants a timber floor that scratches, dents or stains easily. Dent resistance in timber flooring is dependent on two things the species of the timber and the finish. If the timber species is soft, even the hardest finish won't be able to stop if from denting. Oak is one of the hardest and most readily-available timbers suitable for flooring, which is why most of our floors are made from Oak. Scratch resistance is largely dependent on the finish type and hardness. Finishes vary widely between manufacturers and there is no common scale for measuring their hardness. Stain resistance is largely dependent on the finish type but also the level of texture in the flooring. Some finishes like oils can absorb liquids causing them to stain, which is good to be aware of before making a flooring purchase.
To compare the durability of your proposed flooring options, you can perform your own experiments using small samples of each option. A good test for hardness is to walk over the flooring with stiletto heels and then check for dents (be sure that the nail is not exposed this will damage even the hardest of timber flooring). The coating performance of can be tested using something sharp such as scissors to see how easy the coating is to scratch. Stain resistance can be tested by applying small amounts of food or drink (such as tomato sauce, wine etc) to the flooring surface, then removing it to see what it leaves behind.
If you want a timber floor that is going to stay looking in tip-top shape for a long time (think: no bowing/warping/shrinkage/cupping), engineered flooring is the way to go! The engineered layers on the back of the boards help to resist movement in the floor and keep the boards straight and true. There are a number of different ways engineered flooring is constructed - for more information click here. We believe the best engineered wood floors have a base of between 6 and 12 cross-directional layers; these layers help to restrict any amount of movement within the floor.
How long are you wanting your floor to last? Whether you're doing up a rental, your in-between house, or building your forever home you'll want to choose your flooring accordingly. The lifespan of a timber floor has to do with the wear layer (area of real timber above the tongue). The thicker the wear layer, the more times the floor can be sanded back and re-finished and therefore the longer the expected lifespan of the floor. Note that products with thicker wear layers also tend to be more expensive, so if you have a smaller budget you may want to choose a thinner wear layer.
A rough rule of thumb is that each time you sand a floor it takes off about 1mm of timber - so a 6mm wear layer should take between 4-5 sands, while a 3mm wear layer should take 1-2 sands, and so on. There is no set calculation for predicting how often you will need to sand back a floor, it purely depends on the level and type of traffic and your personal preference on how your floor looks. In some instances with high traffic floors or people who like their floors to look perfect, the floors might be sanded back every 5-10 years. For low traffic applications, or people who are happy with a more worn look the owners might prefer to sand back their floors only every 10-20 years. Some people may never sand back their floors.
6. Height requirements
Before choosing flooring you should find out if there is any specific height requirements you need to meet - check with your builder on this. For example, with new builds there are often there are specific levels set up such as the height of your joinery or kitchen, which can determine the thickness of flooring you need to choose. For renovations, you may be overlaying the flooring on an existing surface and need to minimise thickness, or if removing and replacing old flooring you may like to match the previous height so it matches up with your existing joinery. For more information read our article on height requirements.
As with most products on the marketplace, there are some good brands and some really bad brands. Generally you get what you pay for - so if a timber floor is unusually cheap, it is probably poor quality. Try to buy from a reputable store that has been in the industry for a reasonable amount of time and has an in-depth of knowledge on the product, rather than a cheap importer who is here today, gone tomorrow and can't provide any technical support. If you are trying to choose between a number of different products, ensure you are taking into account the plank thickness and width, and wear layer - thinner, narrower planks will usually be cheaper but that is because they take less resources to make, they are not necessarily a bargain. Remember not to judge solely on price, but to compare the quality also. Check the makeup of the core - a 6-12 layer cross-directional ply will be more stable than a 3-layer product.
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